New target for thieves over past 2 years: Catalytic converters that clean up cars’ toxic emissions

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A catalytic converter reduces toxic emissions from a gas-powered car. The piece of equipment also has valuable metals, such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. Catalytic converter thefts in LA have jumped 400% since 2019, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Photo by Shutterstock.

If a car has an internal combustion engine, the catalytic converter is a piece of equipment that reduces its toxic emissions. It’s also a contraption that has lots of valuable metals, such as platinum, rhodium and palladium. Catalytic converter thefts in LA have jumped 400% since 2019, according to the Sheriff’s Department. 

Faith Pinho has been reporting on this for the LA Times, and she says the numbers have skyrocketed during 2020 because of a few reasons. “First, people are leaving their cars out and not checking on them for a few days. And then also, a lot more people are in economic distress. So they are more likely to search for ways to get more money.”

“Toyota Priuses are a strong target for these thieves, and that’s because the catalytic converter basically reduces emissions that are going out into the atmosphere. … And because they release fewer emissions, they have much cleaner catalytic converters, and that makes for a more valuable product.”

But there are some things you can do to prevent it from being stolen. Pinho says, “Your best bet is to park it in a garage if you can, park in well-lit areas, [or] you can see about getting the catalytic converter welded or bolted to your vehicle, so it is harder to remove.” 

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